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How to Use Search Engine Optimization for Your Online Community

To put your online community high on the results pages of search engines, you have to use the terms and phrases most people use to find your community. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the act of creating content that appeals to search engines. It catches the attention of search engines, which in turn catch the attention of potential community members.

The search terms you want your community to rank high on are called keywords. If you want to use a phrase, it’s called a key phrase.

You want to use the most important keywords and key phrases in your content without looking all obvious about it, but sometimes, this is easier said than done.

First, you have to determine the important words and phrases to use as your keywords. You can’t just make up words and hope they lead people to your community. They have to be relevant and descriptive, and they have to make sense.

Many website owners make the mistake of using unnatural-sounding key phrases because of how people search. The problem is that most people don’t talk like they search. Even though you want to choose keywords that will help you rank high, the last thing you want to do is use poor grammar, misspellings, or clunky-sounding examples, simply because that’s what people type in to search engines.

The following list can help you determine how to find the right keywords for your community and content:

  • Use your stats. Your stats program tells you everything you need to know about the people who visit your website or community. Stats allow you to view the keywords and phrases that folks use to land on your website from search engines.

    If you work for Mattress King, for example, and your stats reveal people are finding your community by typing affordable mattresses, you know one important key phrase. Now enter that keyword in a search engine. Where is your community landing on the results page? If it’s one of the top results, that’s excellent; if not, you’ll want to do what you can to get higher on the list.

  • Do your own searching. Search for your community online without using its URL or its title. Simply think of the terms you would use to find out more about your brand or community topic. Also, think of search terms that don’t mention your brand. If your brand is Skippy, for example, search phrases may include peanut butter, peanut butter recipes, and peanut butter cookies.

  • Find out what keywords competing communities use. Using Skippy as an example again, find out what keywords competing brands such as Jif and Peter Pan use.

    Free tools available at Alexa and Compete let you know some of the keywords your competitors use.

  • Use a keyword suggestion program. You can use a keyword suggestion program to find keywords that relevant to your brand. Enter a keyword or subject, and the program offers you a list of keyword options, ranked by popularity. Some good tools to try are Google AdWords, Wordtracker, and SEO Book.

Use different methods to keep on top of the keywords and key phrases that are being used to find your community as well as to find what’s popular in your community. As keywords change every so often, it’s a good idea to check them every six months or so and create your content accordingly.

It’s also a good idea to try new keywords and key phrases to try to reach a totally new audience.

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